Research logs and plans are often used in Advanced Legal Research courses. Logs keep track of every research step, and plans keep research on-track while providing guidance. As you become more familiar with areas of the law and more comfortable as an attorney, you probably won't need to keep track of your research in this way. But until you reach that point, it's a good idea to keep yourself organized and track your work in this way. If you fail to find what you need the first time, you can ensure you don't repeat the same mistakes. You can also account to an associate or supervisor for the work you have done. How you plan and track your work depends on what works best for you, but here are some suggestions.
Research Plan Suggestions
- Factual analysis: Be sure you understand the what, who, when, where, and why of your assignment.
- Identify the potential issues based on the factual analysis.
- Identify potential follow-up questions.
- Note the area of law and jurisdiction.
- Draft key search terms and phrases.
- Identify the types of sources you need to search and how you might access them.
Rombauer Method: Another Planning Tool
- Preliminary analysis
- Identify relevant facts
- Spot issues
- Identify controlling jurisdiction
- Draft key terms and search phrases
- Knowledge assessment
- Identify what you know and what you need to know
- Consult secondary sources for an overview
- Identify relevant sources you have access to for your research
- FInd sources
- Statutes and regulations
- Cases - mandatory and persuasive
- Refine analysis, update, and confirm research
Research Log Suggestions
Each time you locate and read a source, keep track of:
- Date you completed the research.
- Name of the source.
- Location of the source (either in print or where in a database it can be found).
- Search queries/terms used; note if you found a source using a previous source.
- Findings/value of the source. How does this relate to the issue you identified in your plan?
- Next steps or citations found.
- Currentness of the source - to ensure you are using the most up-to-date materials.